JAKARTA - The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) Papua says there are over 70 political detainees and prisoners being held in a number of prisons in the province.
"Based on KontraS data since 2008 to date there have been 76 political detainees and prisoners, four of whom are not in detention but are subject to ongoing legal processes and one other who has already been freed after serving a sentence," said KontraS Papua director Olga Helena Hamadi in Jayapura on Wednesday, as quoted by Antara.
She said Indonesian citizens' freedom to voice their opinions, including criticising government policies, was still being repressed.
"According to KontraS Papua records, the stifling of dissenting voices through arrests and detention is still prevalent leading to increased numbers of political prisoners and detainees in Papua," said Olga.
She said the number of political prisoners in Papua had increased every year and this showed that the government's approach to people in the eastern-most province remained unchanged.
"The way the government deals with problems in Papua must be changed. They should no longer use a repressive approach but a policy that focuses on comprehensive development programs to improve the prosperity of Papuan people overall, including giving them proper room to exercise their democratic rights," said Olga.
Nehemia Yarinap of KontraS Papua said it had received thousands of letters of support for the release of Papuan political prisoners.
"In 2012, there were 7,292 letters for Filep Karma, a political prisoner in Abepura prison, and we handed them over on March 19," she said.
In the past eighteen months, Nehemia said, the number of letters supporting the release of Papuan political detainees and prisoners had reached 2,567. "They were addressed to penitentiaries in Jayapura, Nabire, Timika and Wamena," she said.